Each profession has its hurdles. If you're planning on putting in the work to become a doctor, a lawyer, or an academic professor, you need to invest in years of training. You'll write hundreds of papers. You'll take thousands of pages of notes. You'll sit many, many exams.
None of these exams may be so important, however, as the standardized exam that sits as a gateway to your chosen field. Aspiring doctors must take the MCAT; future lawyers need to prepare for and ace the LSAT. These are accepted milestones that pre-law, pre-med, and many other students prepare for, take, and re-take every year in the hopes of getting one step closer to their professional goals.
However, you don't need to be planning to matriculate in a professional school in order to experience a standardized test. In the United States, most universities require a score from a college admittance exam such as the SAT or ACT. If you bypassed part of high school or are looking to attain a master's degree, you might be familiar with the GED or GRE.
Each of these exams has an extensive set of rules and regulations to help weed out complications and would-be cheaters. In theory, these rules help enforce fairness.
In practice, the entities that administer these examinations can use these guidelines to oversimplify nuanced, complicated situations that can arise during test-taking. Often, these rules take away a lot of agency from students who take these exams. If you're facing misconduct charges or accusations of testing irregularities surrounding a standardized test, you might find yourself without many options to work towards a favorable outcome. You might face score cancellation, testing bans, and more without a fair investigation into the truth of the allegations against you.
That's where we come in. At the Lento Law Firm, it's our goal to ensure that you have the tools to protect your future (as well as your academic or professional timeline).
Standardized Tests You May Face
No matter where you plan to go in life, there's a standardized test for you. If you plan to attend college or pursue higher education, you'll likely experience at least one of the following:
- GRE: An assessment students applying to graduate schools take prior to admission
- ACT: A college preparatory exam to give colleges an idea of student competency
- SAT: Similarly, a standardized test that high school juniors and seniors take to prepare for admission to college
- GED: An exam that students take to attain a high school diploma
- GMAT: The test waiting for those who want to get into business school
- LSAT: A famously grueling exam for pre-law students
- MCAT: The standardized test for students hoping to get into medical school
Every standardized test has its own nuances and individual guidelines, but each certainly has at least one thing in common—a hyper-pressurized environment. These tests create a lot of high expectations and stress. They also create a temptation to take the easy way out—which has necessitated a need for increasingly stringent rules and regulations surrounding the behavior of each test-taker.
Typical Types of Standardized Test Application Misconduct
The entities that administer these types of standardized examinations have written pages and pages of guidelines, all meant to accomplish one simple goal: Reductions in the numbers of students who attempt to cheat their way to a higher score.
There are many ways that standardized-test-takers can attempt to do this. One such way is through misrepresenting their own information on the test application. This might seem like a facile way to manipulate the test.
However, discrepancies on testing applications can sometimes signal academic dishonesty attempts (e.g., students who have paid someone else to take the test for them).
In any case, the documentation that accompanies each standardized test contains specific expectations regarding truthfulness in the application process. Even if you make a mistake on your application, such as stating that you attend an incorrect school or you register under a nickname, the test-taking facility or administrator may be able to use that as a basis for score cancellation or other, even more permanent, punitive measures.
Testing Irregularities Occurring During Exam Administration
Once a candidate has made it to their standardized test administration experience, they'll need to check in successfully. This will likely involve producing a government-issued identification that must match their test registration data. If there is any discrepancy as identified by the test-taking facility, the test administrators have the right to turn a candidate away from the center at once.
If a candidate makes it into the test-taking facility, there are still many guidelines that they will need to follow closely. One of the first sets of expectations involves paying close attention to the types of items prohibited in the testing center.
It will be vital to perform individual research and check in on the guidelines for both your specific test and your specific testing facility, as each exam and each facility may have different lists of prohibited items. However, a general list of common prohibited items might include:
- Any type of smart mobile watch
- Any type of personal computing device
- Any type of recording device
- Timers, other than those included in very simple digital watches
- Non-standard writing implements
- Any type of reference material
- Any cutting device
- Anything that could have a primary or secondary use as a weapon
- Calculators that have features above and beyond very simple mathematical functions
In addition to expectations regarding prohibited materials, each test and testing facility will likely have guidelines regarding prohibited behavior. Again, it's a good idea to check the rules and regulations surrounding your test, but general examples of prohibited behavior may include:
- Taking test materials from the testing room
- Leaving the test center during the test
- Accessing parts of the test center other than the testing or break rooms during the test
- Leafing through the test booklet instead of staying in a specific section
- Tampering with your test-taking device
- Giving or receiving assistance during test administration
- Passing along identifying details regarding your test during or after the test
- Accessing a mobile device during the test
- Sharing a calculator during your test
- Communicating with another test-taker during your test
- Trying to take the test for someone else
This is not a complete list of possible infractions, but it's lengthy enough. Many of these actions could be completed by mistake, or misinterpreted as something more insidious than they are. If you're facing an accusation for any of these types of test-taking misconduct, however, you could also face an uphill battle towards proving your own innocence.
Adjudication of Standardized Test Misconduct—and Potential Consequences
For better or for worse, many standardized test facilitators simply aren't interested in long-winded investigations. Their job is to crack down on even alleged instances of cheating; and they often do so with harsh measures, to discourage any future attempts. Unfortunately, this can result in a rather perfunctory score cancellation or even recommendation for other disciplinary measures, such as a testing ban, without a lengthy (or fair) adjudication process.
Depending on the specific standardized test or association, the adjudication and investigation process will likely include the following:
- A collection of all possible information relating to the alleged infraction (e.g., submitted test materials, candidate records, testimony from witnesses, and more)
- Review of all collected information by a board of administrators
- A formal notice of any decisions made, typically sent in writing to the candidate
- A brief window of time in which the test-taking candidate may be able to appeal
- A potential offer to pursue further arbitration in select circumstances
- A potential offer for the candidate to choose their mode of discipline (e.g., a possible choice to opt for voluntary score cancellation or a chance to re-take the test)
- A recommendation for sanctions
And, unfortunately, that may be it. In some cases, a candidate may not even learn that their scores are in jeopardy until after there's nothing that they can do.
Joseph D. Lento is Ready to Help You Succeed
Regardless of the specific test you may have taken, you've spent a lot of time preparing for it. You've bought test-prep books. You've spent Saturday mornings staring at multiple-choice bubbles. You've worked hard to steadily increase your score.
Now, all of that hard work might be for nothing. After an accusation of misconduct or testing issues from a national test administration organization, it can be difficult to imagine a way forward.
Let Joseph D. Lento help you with managing your misconduct allegation. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has spent years advising students across the nation and defending them aggressively from sloppy investigations or unfair assumptions. He can do the same for you. At the Lento Law Firm, we can help you meet deadlines, prepare statements, and assist with reputation management after a complicated testing debacle.
Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 to see how we can help.